WE WELCOME delegates, dignitaries, and others attending the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week.
To those of you who are here for the first time, the city will be a pleasant surprise. We have a thriving downtown (we call it Center City here), bustling street life, scores of great restaurants, and a rich history, inextricably tied to the founding of the United States of America.
When not at the convention area in South Philadelphia, most of you will end up spending your time in Center City and environs. This is the area that gets the most ink, the locus of the talk about urban revival. But Center City and environs has a population of about 185,000. The rest of the city - the dozens neighborhoods outside its orbit - is where the other 1.4 million Philadelphians live.
Outsiders who come to visit the city usually draw as their story line the contrast between the glitter of Center City and the gloom of decayed neighborhoods outside of it. That's a tired story, and untrue.
We do have poor neighborhoods: 26 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. But we have vibrant and stable neighborhoods as well, and not just the pricier Chestnut Hill, but working-class communities like Torresdale, Cedarbrook, and South Philadelphia.
It is in these places, outside the orbit of Center City, where the future of Philadelphia will be decided.
Philadelphians are a scrappy bunch. We know there are no magic-wand solutions to urban problems. We long ago realized that the federal government was in retreat when it came to cities, either because it was focused on other things or because of the bruising budget battles in Washington.
A wide range of federal aid - for schools, law enforcement, housing, and community development - has declined, sometimes by double digits, since the turn of the century.
Fortunately, this has happened as the same time local government and local actors have become more adept at solving urban problems. We've made gains in such problems as homelessness and neighborhood decay that have been transformational, mostly because people realized that progress came only by increments and by a tight focus on the problem at hand.
Philadelphia - and many other American cities - has a strong cadre of problem solvers, both inside and outside government. They are civic-minded social entrepreneurs focused not simply on getting and spending grants, but on getting results.
You would think the Republican Party would embrace these can-do urbanists as kindred spirits, but it does not. The party's 2016 platform has no urban policy, other than a litany of complaints about how big cities suck up too much federal money.
The Democrats offer three paragraphs in their 50-page platform to discussion of urban issues - and the party wisely says that the best solutions come from the bottom up, from local leaders. That's a step forward from the old federal top-down view of how to help our cities. If Democrats back that up with federal money - with fewer strings attached - it would be a godsend to those working in the neighborhoods.
Urban areas - cities like Philadelphia - remain the future of America, for better and for worse. We hope you have a great time while you are here. Just don't forget the rest of us.